The Orangery Restaurant and Garden Cafe, Burghley House
Caroline Bingham went to Burghley House to dine in the Orangery.
Who cannot help but be impressed whenever you see the magnificent turrets of Burghley above the treetops and finally the full glory of the house itself? It should be on the itinerary for any visitor to the county but there is a full calendar of events which keep repeat visitors coming back too. The day I visited, the second Burghley Flower Festival was being staged with a theme of Autumn Colours. Eight local flower clubs had decorated ten of the most magnificent rooms with floral arrangements, which reflected not only the season but also the individuality of the setting. You don’t have to visit the house to eat and drink in the Orangery Restaurant and Café but this splendid room is an irresistible place to take a break and relax.
Designed by ‘Capability’ Brown in the eighteenth century, the Orangery was built to indulge the Cecil family’s passion for exotic horticulture and the floor to ceiling expanse of windows on one side of the room, overlooking part of the formal gardens, bring in exceptional light.
The menu introduced by Absolute Taste, the event and catering company which took over the Orangery earlier this year, is a clever mix of light bite options, more substantial main courses and desserts. As they open at 10am, there are griddled muffins with a choice of fillings served hot as well as a table laden with freshly baked cakes, Danish pastries and rolls which offer a breakfast or coffee time treat. There are many locally sourced ingredients to recognise and the Lincolnshire Poacher cheese and honey roasted ham muffin sounded especially good. There are tartines and hot sandwiches as well as eight starters or small plate options. The counter runs on a semi-self-service basis, whereby you choose your table, select and pay at the counter. Main, plated meals are then bought to your table. I chose goat’s cheese and spinach quiche served with pickled onions, apple chutney, mixed leaf salad and rustic bread from the main courses but while I waited I enjoyed a starter of delicious, fresh pea and mint soup.
Other starters which could be chosen as small plate meals included Caesar or chicken Caesar salad and tomato, avocado, basil and buffalo mozzarella salad to name just a couple. There were thirteen main courses which included penne pasta, wild mushroom risotto and roast pumpkin ravioli as vegetarian dishes as well as very comforting sounding local Longhorn braised beef and Ufford Ale pie served with rustic mash, buttered carrots and Savoy cabbage. There were Grasmere sausages and mash with onion gravy, Grimsby sourced Pollack and chips and fine, named local cheeses with the Ploughman’s.
My quiche was served hot, had a light crisp pastry base and a good clean flavour. I washed it down with a bottle of sparkling elderflower cordial. I decided to skip a pudding as two courses were sufficient but I did enjoy a latte to finish.
The room had been very busy while I ate. A mix of visitors, friends and families meeting for lunch kept a buzz of conversation around the room.
The menu then slips effortlessly into afternoon tea mode with scones and cakes as well as those light bite choices still there to tempt you.
The Orangery can be used for weddings and special occasion celebrations as well as corporate events. Absolute Taste bring their experience of catering for Formula 1 teams and in other prestigious café and restaurant locations to offer tailored menus and themes for any special celebration. I went out into the private gardens to see the stunning Summerhouse which is a glorious folly in the best English tradition. Situated on an elevated bank of the lake, the Summerhouse can be used as an intimate setting for a wedding breakfast or party for up to twenty dining. It would be hard to find a more beautiful location.
I finished my visit by completing my tour of the Flower Festival. I have been to Burghley many times but the room that always draws me back is the old kitchen. The massive cast iron stoves and fire have not been lit for a long time but the walls are still blackened and the fabulous collections of copperware give you some idea of the banquets that were created.
Quite a legacy but the Orangery is rising to the challenge of creating food to complement its impressive backdrop.